Breastfeeding: Bonding or Bondage??!!

By March 15, 2012 Blog No Comments

To breastfeed or not to breastfeed…that is the question.  Sure this may not be as profound as Shakespeare’s question to live or to die, but probably the most difficult decision for many new Moms to make. I have to admit, for me breastfeeding came relatively easy with my two children.  I didn’t have problems with latching, it wasn’t painful and I produced enough milk… Not enough milk to feed a small army, but enough milk to feed my little soldier.  I really enjoyed breastfeeding my son (he breastfed until 9 months and is now 3.5 years old), and still do with my daughter (six months old), but breastfeeding doesn’t come without a cost.

As I stood in the shower this morning I pondered how long I would be able to breastfeed my six month old daughter.  In the past week I’ve noticed my breasts aren’t as engorged as they used to be.  They are starting to flatten out on the top and my bras aren’t filling out as much.  When I pump, I’m not even getting a full feeding, and just last weekend I depleted the breast milk storage.  I am a full time Mom with the exception of two days a week when I have a babysitter for six hours.  This means I have to pump 2-3 feedings for each of those days. That’s a lot of pumping!  When I’m home with my daughter, I don’t really keep a schedule.  I did with my son, but he was a much different baby. He was fussier, I was sleepier, and keeping a schedule was a necessity for my sanity.  I also supplemented with formula when he was 5 months old at the advice of a woman who was helping me sleep train him. He seemed fussy when I breastfed him and she suggested he wasn’t getting enough milk.  She recommended I start pumping and monitoring how much he was eating.  It was soon after that I started supplementing because he was eating far more than I realized, and I couldn’t keep up.  Maybe that’s what’s happening now with my daughter?!  When I’m home with her I just feed her “on demand”.  When she’s fussy or she’s having trouble falling asleep, or when I want to sooth her (or myself), breastfeeding is my secret weapon (probably the number one reason to breastfeed in my opinion…love that secret weapon!).  But the babysitter doesn’t have that secret weapon, so I have to make sure she has milk to spare!

The thing about pumping is, it’s a pain in the butt.  Even if you have the all-important breast-pumping bra and put on your favorite reality show, it’s still a pain.  And it’s humiliating…even if you’re in a room by yourself.  There’s just nothing attractive about pumping.  Ask most Moms; it’s pumping that makes breastfeeding feel like a burden.  Just when you want to have NOTHING to do, you have to pump!  WA WA WA WA WA WA (that’s the sound of the breast pump)!

So I sat there in the shower contemplating whether now was the time to start supplementing.  I don’t know why, but when women go from solely breastfeeding to using formula it feels like some judgment is coming down and the guilt sets in.  Will my baby get fat now (I know, very superficial and unimportant!)?  Will she immediately grow up?  Will we lose our bond?  Will she be like every other baby?  Will I be less of an earth Mother?  When you do something that is so natural for so long, it is difficult to consider things any other way.  But sometimes necessity takes the choice out of our hands.

So there I was, in the shower examining my breasts, noticing how UNfull of milk they felt, and I knew I had an event to go to which would take me away from my baby for four hours.  I got out of the shower and was already pressed for time.  I put on my breast pumping bra and my robe and affixed all the necessary gear and starting pumping.  Since I was short for time, I blew dry my hair at the same time (gotta love the multi-tasking – I’ve also danced and pumped at the same time – now that takes skill)….As I was pumping and blow drying (working up a sweat I might add), I hear someone knocking at the door downstairs.  The dogs start barking.  It’s the babysitter and a painful reminder of how little milk is coming out and the decision I’m going to be faced with momentarily.  I start sweating more. I have so much to do before I have to leave and I have to arrive at this event on time.  No milk is coming.  I have thirty minutes before I have to leave.  I have to finish my hair, get dressed, pay the garage door repair guys who have been in my house all day, prep the sitter for the afternoon (she is a new sitter by the way)…no milk………  And, finally, I have a moment.  I turn off the blow dryer and look in the mirror at myself.  I look like a machine with all the breast pumping equipment hanging off me.  My breast are sagging. There isn’t any milk in there right now.  I know what I need to do, and I finally accept it.  Formula.  Why am I stressing myself out?  Pushing myself up against a wall?  I have worked hard to breastfeed and pump and take care of my baby for six months.  And I’ve done a great job.  She’s amazingly healthy and beautiful.  I’m a good Mom.  I WANT to continue breastfeeding her and I will. But at this moment, it is what it is, and there isn’t enough milk.  My decision is made and I’m at peace with it.  But it’s not without some sadness.  The babysitter comes in my room and she asks about the feeding schedule.  I tell her there isn’t really one.  I just know when she’s hungry and I feed her.  She asks where the milk is.  I show her the barely 3 ounces I just pumped and I point to the can of formula. This will be the first time I say.  And there’s silence.  And then I start justifying it.  She is very understanding, but part of me feels like I’m failing…like I’m letting HER down.  I’m going to keep breastfeeding her I insist!  Why do I have to prove anything to anyone anyway?  But I do.  I love breastfeeding my daughter.  But I know when enough is enough, and I’ve put myself under enough pressure.  It’s time to let myself off the hook.  So we make a bottle of formula and went to my event.

I really enjoyed the event.  I enjoyed being dressed up and out on the town as a woman, an adult…not a Mom.  When it came time to go home, I didn’t want to. I was enjoying myself. I wanted to stay out longer.  But duty called.  I went home and found my babysitter feeding my baby the bottle of formula.  She took it fine. I knew she would.  Later that night I breastfed her to sleep and pumped afterward.  And this morning I breastfed her again.

I am starting to realize that as a Mom, AND as a person, I have to find balance and give myself a break.  If I pressure myself too much about anything, it will take away from the enjoyment of everything.  I would rather enjoy breastfeeding my daughter when I can and not worry about it when I can’t.  I am lucky, I know, to be able to breastfeed her at all.  And I am grateful for that.

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